It's easy to tell those who think they will benefit from the intrusive and unnecessary new Internet rules proposed last week by the Federal Communications Commission's on a 3-2 vote.
Broadband service providers, reports The Wall Street Journal, have indicated they can live with the proposal by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler that would allow them to sell Internet "fast lanes" to content providers.
These supporters include the biggest broadband service company, Comcast, which is reportedly planning to offer its customers a rival to Netflix through which they can order films online. A "fast lane" for such a service could seriously cut into Netflix revenues.
On the other side, Internet companies that provide content, like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Netflix, very strongly object to the proposed new rules.
Netflix said the proposed approach could limit innovation and punish consumers. All arranged by your friendly not-so-net-neutral government regulator.
But there is a more fundamental objection to this proposed rule which the majority of the FCC is, in Orwellian fashion, describing as a defense of net neutrality.
The proposed new rules reach out to bring the Internet under the authority of the FCC despite the lack of explicit authority from Congress.
Under one interpretation, that could lead to treating broadband providers as telecommunications companies whose rates and procedures can be regulated by the FCC and the states.
The excuse provided by Chairman Wheeler is that without the proposed new rules there is no legal basis for overseeing broadband company policies. Indeed, a federal court in January told the FCC it could not prevent such companies from creating and charging for "fast lanes."
But The Wall Street Journal notes that the Federal Trade Commission already has ample authority to address predatory business practices by broadband companies.
Extending FCC regulation to Internet service providers - in effect treating them as utilities - is likely to slow innovation and the creation of new consumer benefits.
As FCC Commissioner Michael O'Reilly, a Republican appointee, said in his dissent to proposing the new rules, "The current framework has provided a climate of certainty and stability for broadband investment and Internet innovation. Upending that framework could disrupt the tremendous progress that has been made over the last decade."
In this connection, it is striking that both Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, from the right and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., from the left have complained that the FCC lacks authority to adopt the new rules.
Congress should act promptly to keep the Internet out of the clutches of the FCC.
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